Select Committee on Foreign Affairs Minutes of Evidence

Examination of Witness (Questions 600-619)


19 JUNE 2003

  Q600  Sir John Stanley: You are going to refer to the 45 minutes?

  Mr Wilkie: I will refer to that last, if you do not mind, Sir John. On the second page, the first dot, these pesky mobile laboratories. There is a great debate over whether these trailers are or are not mobile laboratories and whether it is one, two or three. I do not care whether it is ten or 20 trailers, the point is we are talking about things, we are talking about finds that are so small in scale and are so far short of this serious and imminent threat. I think what we have found so far is much closer to my claim that it was a disjointed and contained WMD programme and not the sort of big national programme that was sold to us as the justification for the war. Below the line on that page, they are talking about the uranium from Niger. I know there has been some speculation about this but my understanding from having worked in the intelligence community is that the fact that the CIA disputed the uranium from Niger, that was known in the CIA early in 2002 and was shared with allied intelligence agencies through the normal intelligence sharing processes. As far as I am concerned the fact that that uranium claim was false would have been known by the British intelligence services months before this document went to press. Similarly, talking about the other materials here, I think it is probably referring to the thousands of aluminium tubes. The International Atomic Energy Agency had doubts about the purpose of those tubes from 2001, had doubts shared with the intelligence agencies, certainly in Australia at ONA and I would assume confidently also within your own intelligence agencies. That was a concern over a year before this document was published. There are serious deficiencies just in the Executive Summary. So I do not speak all day on this, if I could jump to the 45 minutes. I do not believe that there is any solid intelligence to back up that claim. I do not know what report that was based on, I am not claiming to have seen it. If there is a piece of raw intelligence, a piece of human intelligence I assume, saying 45 minutes, I would suggest that it is some of this garbage-grade intelligence. Can I suggest that we take a step back for a moment. We are getting into the detail and there are looks of disagreement around the board. The bottom line here is that in Australia, and I understand in the UK, people were sold the need for war on the basis of Iraq's WMD programme and on the basis of the likelihood of them passing WMD to terrorism. What has been found is so short of that claim, and what is likely to be found now is unlikely to be this large national programme.

  Q601  Mr Chidgey: Just sweeping up what is left on the dossier, I take it that you do not believe that the dossier is a balanced assessment of Iraq's capabilities?

  Mr Wilkie: No.

  Q602  Mr Chidgey: You would not have endorsed the view that on chemical weapons Iraq has a usable weapons capability which has included recent production of chemical agents, as in the dossier?

  Mr Wilkie: I do not believe there is enough evidence to know for sure that Iraq had been manufacturing chemical and biological weapons recently.

  Q603  Mr Chidgey: So presumably you would not agree with the statement that: "Iraq can deliver chemical agents using an extensive range of artillery shells, free fall bombs, sprayers and ballistic missiles"?

  Mr Wilkie: The issue here is one of degree, not of absolutes. I am saying they had a programme, I am saying they may well have some weapons, I am saying they may well find something. My chief concern was the way that what I judged to be a limited threat was exaggerated by the governments in three capitals. I think there are some elements in here which are just unbelievable. For example, the L-29 aircraft and the talk in here about that being used as a platform for spraying chemical and biological agents, that just does not make sense to me. To convert a plane like that for that purpose is a very difficult and expensive project, why not just put them in a cheap ballistic missile if they are going to deliver them that way?

  Q604  Mr Chidgey: Can I just come on to that because I wanted to ask you specifically, and again I am quoting from the dossier, one of the claims in it is: "Iraq's military forces are able to use chemical and biological weapons", it is weapons we are talking about, "with command control and logistical arrangements in place. The Iraqi military are able to deploy these weapons within 45 minutes of a decision to do so." You would not agree with that? I am asking the question particularly bearing in mind your military experience, I want you to think in that context, of what it takes to be able to give the order, have the weapons system ready in a battlefield scenario. It does not actually say anything here about launching missiles to Cyprus, for example.

  Mr Wilkie: One thing that strikes me about that 45 minutes claim is for that to be accurate Iraq would have needed to have had everything weaponised.

  Q605  Mr Chidgey: Everything? It is a capability, it does not say throughout the whole country, or whatever.

  Mr Wilkie: Knowing how the military works in any country, particularly in a country like this, if they are going to have rounds in the air, or rockets in the air, in 45 minutes then I believe the actual WMD warhead, if I can call it that, already needed to be weaponised.

  Q606  Mr Chidgey: I understand what you mean.

  Mr Wilkie: Basically you liquid fuel a rocket, talk about it, press the button and your 45 minutes are up.

  Q607  Mr Chidgey: What about rocket launchers, that is not liquid fuel as far as I know? I am not a military man.

  Mr Wilkie: My only point here, and I am probably not articulating this particularly well, is for a country to have the capability to use WMD within 45 minutes then its WMD already has to be weaponised.

  Q608  Mr Chidgey: The shells have to be filled?

  Mr Wilkie: Yes.

  Q609  Mr Chidgey: And the shelves actually too.

  Mr Wilkie: You are talking about the shells virtually sitting next to the 155 artillery pieces or whatever.

  Q610  Mr Chidgey: So what is the significance of that in this analysis?

  Mr Wilkie: What is the significance of it?

  Q611  Mr Chidgey: Are you saying that you would have known that they were filled, or what?

  Mr Wilkie: I think there is a huge gap between the claim saying that a factory has been rebuilt which could manufacture an agent and the claim that a country has weaponised and deployed its weapons of mass destruction. I do not believe there was enough hard evidence to paint a picture of Iraq having a developed capability out there.

  Q612  Mr Chidgey: But this dossier is based on intelligence assessments, it was not invented.

  Mr Wilkie: No. I am quite sure that the people who produced a lot of this in its first form did a great job, they came up with what their judgment was. I suppose one of the reasons why I am of interest to a committee like this is my judgment is at odds with the stated judgments of so many in the intelligence agencies, one of which I used to work for. How did I come up with a judgment so different? I cannot explain that, it was my approach to the issue. I think I was much more critical, particularly of the human intelligence, and, in fact, that might have had something to do with the fact that I did do work on people smuggling to Australia, an issue which is characterised by appalling human intelligence. Maybe because of the work that I had been involved in I had a slightly different approach and I was much more critical compared to some of the agencies.

  Q613  Mr Chidgey: Can I pick that point up. Obviously we have taken evidence from a number of people already this week and a lot of that has hinged on how intelligence assessments are processed. I would just like your views, if I may. My understanding from the evidence we have taken is the raw intelligence can be very broad brush and some of it can be very contradictory. Do you take the view that working on that basis, the assessment, the analysis, that is produced from the intelligence might result in several different options of what the intelligence might mean? The classic case, of course, is dual use, or should we say multi use, chemical processing. One of the options is it is producing liquid soap or whatever, or it might be producing lavatory cleanser, or whatever, but it could also do this. You have to go a step beyond that surely to be able to analyse what the most likely use of that facility is. Do you see what I am getting at?

  Mr Wilkie: Yes.

  Q614  Mr Chidgey: You cannot rely just on the fact that there is a pharmaceutical or chemical plant, or whatever, which has a range of uses, you have to go further and have more intelligence to tell us what it is most likely being used for or most likely to be used for. This is where the options come in. Could you give me some idea how you would address that as an intelligence analyst and what sort of reporting procedure you would then—

  Mr Wilkie: It is pretty simple really, is it not? At the end of the day you build a picture of someone's intention and their capability and you build that picture trying to get as much intelligence and as much different sources of intelligence from different sources, technical means and human means.

  Q615  Mr Chidgey: Fine, that is great. You take a different view in your analysis, your assessment, from most of the intelligence community. Is that because your analysis of the evidence comes up with a different conclusion or because you do not believe that sufficient intelligence was there to come to the conclusion that was reached?

  Mr Wilkie: I think the latter was an important issue in me making the judgment I did. I did not think there was enough intelligence to justify some of the claims, and I have mentioned some of them in this dossier. I suppose ultimately I had interpreted things differently from some of my peers. I might point out that on the issue of Iraq, I think in the intelligence agencies there has been a range of views for a long time. A strength of the British system is the JIC where ultimately a compromise has to be reached to go to government, and ONA is sort of like that in that it is the single gateway.

  Q616  Mr Chidgey: Does that not suggest that the British system which has resulted in the various dossiers is quite a robust system and, therefore, more trustworthy?

  Mr Wilkie: I do not know that the British system is better than the Australian system.

  Q617  Mr Chidgey: I did not make that comparison.

  Mr Wilkie: I think they are both pretty good systems. The proof is in the pudding, so to speak. These systems came up with an assessment on Iraq that we should expect a certain WMD programme on a certain scale and it is not there. We can talk about a whole lot of stuff but at the end of the day it is not there, it has not been found. Is this a good document in retrospect? No, in retrospect it is a lousy document because this document led us to expect that the troops would go into Iraq and encounter and uncover a huge WMD programme.

  Q618  Mr Chidgey: Is your argument, therefore, that this document is not representative of the intelligence assessments that were used to produce this document?

  Mr Wilkie: I see where you are coming from. I think this document is a step beyond what I would expect the JIC to produce. I know that is a big claim and I base that on the work I have seen of the UK JIC. It is too unambiguous. It paints too confidently a picture of Iraq's WMD programme.

  Q619  Mr Chidgey: Have you ever seen an intelligence assessment, say a JIC document in this case, resembling anything like this in your career?

  Mr Wilkie: No.

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